Saturday, June 29, 2024

The New Beginning (821 words)

I was on the terrace of a multi-storeyed building that housed my former office. Entering the building was easy; I was laid off only recently and was well-known to the security staff. I looked down at the busy road. The cars, buses, and people looked like tiny ants crawling. The height made me feel giddy if I looked down for too long. My life has been a total failure and will soon end. The fall from over 150 feet would mean instant death—no pain, no agony, and total freedom from worries. I came to this decision after a lot of deliberation. There is no going back.

I was doing a clerical job until they gave me the pink slip last week. Jobs were scarce. I climbed the stairs of many offices and sent applications only to draw a blank. I had taken some loans from friends and others. They pressured me to return the money once they knew I lost my job, turning abusive in their language. I could not take it anymore.

Sita would no doubt be shattered. She had been a good wife, standing by me through thick and thin. Life had been hard for her with my low-paid job and three children. The last one, Neena, just eight years old, was unplanned.. I could not get Sita even a gram of gold after our marriage. She never grumbled. The thought of leaving her with the heavy burden tormented me. The terminal benefit from the job was meagre and would not last long. She was a teacher in a school before marriage and may have to find a job after I am gone.

“Why do you worry so much? I will work as a teacher. You take care of the kids and your aged mom until you get a job. Get out of the depression. Come with me to the Ganesh temple at the end of the road. He will surely show us the way,” Sita had said in the morning.

“Okay, let me visit some offices and give the applications. It seems I have run out of luck. As you wish, we will visit the temple in the evening though I am not hopeful of the outcome," I replied.

“Tut, tut. Stop this whining. You are not the only one to lose the job. Many are yet to find their first job and are much worse off than us. We are not sick. We can find some way. Have faith in God,” she admonished.

Poor thing, she did not know my true financial situation. Many instalments were in arrears for the loan taken by pledging our small house. The private creditors for many small debts would come after me. The bleak job market and my diffidence to face the situation compounded my problems. I love her the most. I love my children. My aged mom dotes on me. I would not like to leave them in misery. But I dread the recovery agents set upon me who wait for me at the end of the road to come out of the house. No, I could not bear the mental torture and am determined to find a permanent solution.

As I stood firmly on the wide parapet wall, I prayed to God to forgive me for the extreme step. As if in answer, a cool wind blew over my face. I looked down. It was no longer scary. But I wished to have one last look at the photo of my wife and kids.

As I fumbled in my pocket, I found a piece of paper folded neatly and addressed to 'Dear Papa' in crayon. It was from my daughter Neena. It read, "Dear Papa, Next week is my birthday. You had promised me a nice dress. I have changed my mind. I do not need it or anything else. It is enough if we all sit together and play Monopoly. It has been a very long time since we did it. That would be my best birthday gift. I love you a lot. Affectionately, Neena."

Tears flowed from my eyes. I instantly decided that I would not take the extreme step but give my life a new try. Suddenly, a big gust of wind hit me forcefully on my face and body, upsetting my balance as I stood on the parapet wall. Screaming, “Neenaa...” in great panic, I fell down. After what seemed like an eternity, I found myself lying on the terrace of the building.

Thanking God for His boundless grace, I rushed home like a madman to find a smiling Sita at the door, waving her hand that held an envelope. I could easily guess from her broad smile that it was an appointment offer. Highly elated at the happy denouement, my mind involuntarily turned to Lord Ganesh.

"No matter how dark the night, the dawn of a new beginning is just a heartbeat away."


Wednesday, June 26, 2024

You won (884 words)

I like this story of mine  and the main character in it I hope you find it engaging.I would be delighted to see your reaction!

Mahalingam was sitting on the steps of the temple tank. He did this most evenings to find a secluded spot for himself. There was always a cool breeze at this place. Generally, except for a stray few like him, most people got down the steps to wash their feet before entering the temple. Maha rarely went inside the temple, save for rare occasions. He was neither an atheist nor devout. He was over 80 and had lost his wife a decade ago. He lived with his son, Dandapani, who was affectionate towards him but never demonstrated it except when alone. Dandu, as Maha endearingly called him, maintained a diplomatic balance between his wife and father.

Maha had a drawback in speaking whatever came to his mind and was often tactless. This frequently brought him into conflict with his daughter-in-law and grandchildren. They hardly spoke to him and pretended not to hear when he called. Luckily, he had good health and could manage his chores himself. He spent time reading the dailies from cover to cover and reading books he brought from the local municipal library.

It was one evening when the sky was overcast, though there was no indication of rain. The tank was almost empty except for the silhouette of someone bathing on the opposite side. When Maha turned towards the southern side, he found a hazy figure in dark clothes standing a short distance away, watching him. Maha was eating with relish hot masala vada bought from a vendor at the entrance to the tank. He looked at the figure and called out, “Come here. Why are you staring at me? Sit by my side and have some vada.”

With a puzzled look, the black figure moved closer to him without saying anything.

“Why are you silent? I think I saw you yesterday too. Come closer. Why are you in dark clothes? Do you belong to any political outfit?” Maha asked in his exuberant style. When the figure came near, Maha offered him two vadas and asked him to sit by his side.

The figure shook its head to decline. It said in a gruff but peculiar voice, “You have only one more day.”

“One more day for what? You’re talking like a Yama dhuta,” Maha roared with laughter.

“Yes, one more day to live. You will follow me then. Your guess is correct.”

“You don’t seem like one. I thought they were dark in complexion, bare-chested, and with scary faces without noses or mouths, or with wide mouths and protruding tongues or teeth. That is what my mother told me just a day before her death. You are not bare chested but have black clothes on. I haven’t heard that these emissaries of Yama talked to their victims, announcing the dates of departure. Either you are a nut or a knave,” Maha said laughingly.

Smiling for the first time, it said, “You seem a jolly old fellow and are not scared. Though I don’t have to tell you, I took a liking for you and hence gave the news for you to make suitable arrangements before your final departure.”

“Ha, ha, ha! Don’t think I will fall for your ruse. Surely I bet you are a drama actor coming after rehearsal without changing costume, and maybe trying to get some money out of me. Show me some evidence that you are Yama’s messenger,” said Maha.

“Nothing like what you say. See this rope,” the figure said, dangling a long rope.

Maha was in splits. “Rope, you say! Ha-ha, showing a clothesline for a lifeline (pasa kayiru) and scaring me or what? I am in perfect health. Though past 80, my heart is strong, I walk long distances, digest all food, no complaints except fading vision. I don’t think I will die for another five years. Get lost and find some easy quarry,” he said.

“OK, can you see my legs? Watch whether I am standing on the floor or a foot above. This should set your doubts at rest,” said the figure.

“With my poor vision, I cannot verify the truth of what you say when it is dark. Get going and we can meet tomorrow evening here. But you will have some vadas with me,” said Maha as he got up to go home.

Maha didn’t tell his son Dandu, lest he gets worried. Maha saw it as a joke, though the next day, before he left for his evening jaunt to the temple tank, he kept all his things in his room clean and in an orderly manner.

He looked around for the dark figure as he munched the vadas. He was not to be seen, though Maha waited until 7 p.m. He heard the temple bell toll and left the place after folding his raised arms in the direction of the temple. He was in a happy mood as he walked into his house.

Just as he climbed the three steps, he tripped and fell. The sharp corner of the concrete step hit his forehead hard. As blood came out and he was losing consciousness, he turned his head to see the dark figure with the dangling rope smiling at him with a tinge of sadness. Maha wished to say, “You won,” but his life ebbed out by then.


Monday, June 24, 2024

The uninvited guest (611 words)


It was very cold at this time of year, and the chill wind added to the discomfort. I sat aimlessly on a raised parapet wall near the metro station lounge. Without a ticket, I couldn’t access the warm, comfortable seats inside. With nowhere to go and no money to spend, I had just finished my last cigarette when I heard the shuffle of feet beside me.

Looking weary and unkempt, a young woman in her early twenties approached. "Can I sit here for a while? A jerk has been stalking me, and if he sees us talking, he might leave me alone."

I turned and saw a tall, muscular man with a county cap walking away. I asked,” Okay, sit down. Tell me, where do you live? It’s obvious you’re not travelling by train."

"Frankly, I have no place to go. I’m just wandering around," she replied

"Where were you living before?"

"With a man for six months until he threw me out this morning."

"Why did he throw you out? Another woman?"

"I don’t know. He didn’t give a reason. I moved in on the day I met him because I had no place to go. Maybe he found out I lost my job as a barmaid last week," she replied

I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to leave her alone in the dangerous night, but I was wary of bringing a stranger to my room.

She broke my reverie, touching my hand. "Please help me for tonight. I promise I’ll leave in the morning."

Seeing the stalker lurking nearby, I decided. "Okay, come with me. My room is small; you’ll have to sleep on the floor and leave at daybreak. Clear?"

We walked through dark, dingy lanes until we reached my basement room. It was self-contained, with a bath and kitchenette. I handed her a faded pair of jeans and a shirt. "Take a shower. You can use the soap and shampoo. These clothes should fit you. Remember, you’re leaving in the morning."

"Thank you," she said, shaking my hand. "I’ll be quick."

As she showered, I heard a noise and saw her peeking out. She closed the door swiftly and continued her shower. When she emerged, she looked transformed.

"You look amazing," I said.

"Thank you. I’m starving. Can I check your fridge?"

"No, sit down. I have pizza, an apple, and milk if you want to warm it."

I had already prepared a bed on the floor for her "You can eat and then sleep. I’m dead tired and going to bed. No funny business. I’m just being hospitable."

At 7 AM, a loud knock jolted me awake. The woman wasn’t in bed, but the bathroom light was on. I opened the door slightly to see the stalker push his way in.

"Where’s the lady?" he demanded.

"Who are you to barge into my place? Get out!" I shouted.

He flashed an identity card from the Anti-Drugs Authority and let in two armed men. Shocked, I turned towards the bathroom as the door opened.

The stalker saluted her, sending a chill down my spine. She spoke softly but firmly, "Check the wall by the bed. He was meddling there last night."

"You dirty bitch," I swore as the men restrained me. They found a hidden vault with a large cache of contraband inside.

Handcuffed and pushed into a waiting car, she approached him and said, "Sorry, buddy. You were a good host, but I had my duty. We knew you had the stuff but needed solid evidence. Now we have it." She turned and walked to her chauffeured car, leaving me to face the consequences.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Meeting God (481 words)


When I easily reached the sanctum sanctorum and gazed upon God bathed in sandalwood, a voice from nowhere asked, “Did you grease someone’s palm to enter here?”

 I shuddered in disbelief and confessed in fear, “Yes.”

“It is unethical. When you meet me next Sunday, it will be elsewhere and you don’t have to bribe or wait. It will be instantaneous,” said the voice.

Drenched in sweat and fear, I thought of the many unfinished things like my unwritten will, collecting the huge loans given to trusted friends, the several benami transactions of land and property and legal disputes. I thought of my grieving family with my wife and two young children.

I was hardly able to walk. I pinched myself to ensure I was not dreaming.

Suddenly, the voice softened and continued, “But fear not, for this is your chance to change. Your actions today have brought you to this moment, but you can make amends. Use the time you have to set things right.”

Determined, I decided to address all my unfinished business ethically. I wrote my will, reached out to friends to settle debts amicably, paid the dues and made arrangements to transfer properties honestly.I also set aside liberally for charity.

When Sunday came, I was filled with a mix of apprehension and peace. I decided to live a life of honesty and truth, with no greed but a charitable disposition. I reached the nearby park, expecting a divine encounter. Instead, I found myself at the park with many children playing on the swings and slides and families enjoying the day. I hailed a sugar candy vendor making balls of cotton-like candies in colours and asked him to give one or two to each one of them. I heaved a sigh of relief when I saw the children dancing happily with candies in their hands.

It was then I heard a soft cough from nearby. Confused, I looked around until I saw an old man sitting on a bench, smiling at me. “You’re here,” he said warmly. “Sit with me.”

I sat beside him like an obedient student, and he handed me a small, worn-out book. “This is your new beginning,” he said. “Every good deed, every moment of kindness, will fill these pages starting from today’s candies to the children. Live each day as if you’re writing a story worth telling.”

As I opened the book, I saw the first entry written in elegant script: Today, you chose to live with integrity and compassion.

I looked up, but the old man was gone. The park seemed even brighter, and my heart felt lighter. I realised that meeting God wasn’t about leaving this world but transforming my life within it. Every action, every choice, was a step toward the divine.

I walked away from the park, ready to fill my new book's pages with a life worth living.

Saturday, June 15, 2024

Sujita's surprise (934 words)

Sujita saw a young man walking with a white stick in hand ahead of her but unsure of himself. He stopped at the signal, presumably to reach the park on the other side. The traffic on the road was heavy with cars and buses whizzing past at great speed. She hurried to be by his side before he stepped on the road. Just as she feared, he got onto the road even when the signal was in amber. She held him back by her hand and said "Please wait. The signal has not yet turned green for pedestrians to cross"

"Thank you. I couldn't notice it," he replied.

"Never mind. I will take you across the road" she said without leaving his hand.

"Not necessary, I can manage as I am accustomed to walking alone."

"I am going to that side only. It is no trouble for me. It is risky to cross the road alone even when the way is clear for pedestrians as some drivers are always in a hurry."

She led him to a bench in the park and was about to leave when he asked, “May I know the name of my benefactor? I am Mahesh living in the complex Green Height nearby."

She noticed he was around 27 or 28, very handsome with curly hair and a gentle voice. Though his eyes were open, there was a vacant look. She wondered why God was cruel in endowing him with great charm but denying him the vision.

“I am Sujita and living in the Apoorva complex just a few blocks from yours. Do you visit the park daily at this time?" she asked.

"Yes, I do. Sujita is a sweet name. I am lucky to meet you. From your voice, I infer you must be young. What do you do, studying or working?"

"I am 24 and a software engineer. What do you do for a living though it may sound silly to ask this question?"

"I am a writer and indulge in poetry too. I have a few published books to my credit. I need help to write as I am nearly blind. I employ people for that" he said.

“How nice to know you are a writer. I love poetry and even dabble in it. I can help you at this time for an hour or so if you can dictate. I can give you the edited copies in print the next day.."

What started like this soon turned into a liking for each other that bordered on love within a short period though both did not openly express it. She was unsure whether her parents would agree and was herself in two minds. He had also not indicated his love for her as he was presumably averse to imposing himself on a young lady with a bright and happy future. Nevertheless, they met daily with her helping him out amidst small talk. Both of them seemed to look forward to these daily meetings.

One day when it started drizzling, he declined her suggestion to accompany him up to his complex. Asked about his family, he said he had an elder brother who was married and a younger sister. Sujita also had not invited him home for fear of what her parents would say about this friendship.

A week later she met her friend Kusum in the mall after a long time. She worked in Mumbai and had come down to her parent's place in Bengaluru on a short holiday. Sujita suddenly recollected that her parents resided in Green Heights as Mahesh did.

 "Kusum, are you aware of a young and handsome guy Mahesh by name, an author and poet but unfortunately blind living in your complex?" asked Sujita

"Yes, I know one Mahesh who writes and dabbles in poetry but this guy is not blind. Maybe someone else or in some other complex," Kusum replied.

"Maybe another person but this guy dictates daily his poems or novel at the park and I write for him since a month. He said he has an elder brother married and a younger sister. But this guy sadly is blind though very handsome,He has a button on one of his ears.”

"Sujita, I think I know this guy and what he is up to. Why don't you come today at 4 pm to my house? I think I can unravel the mystery," Kusum said.

“What mystery are you referring to?” Sujita asked somewhat puzzled.

“Do come and you will know for yourself,” said Kusum.

At 4 pm sharp when she pressed the bell and Kusum opened the door, Sujita saw Mahesh watching TV with his parents and laughing loudly at some scene to her great bewilderment.  How come he watches TV? Is he a liar and a cheat?" she wondered.

“Mahesh, turn around and see your scribe, Sujita. Why do you play this dirty trick on her? Don’t you know we are great friends from our college days?" asked Kusum.

A highly embarrassed Mahesh turned  and said “I am sorry, Sujita. I have seen you with my sister a couple of times. I didn't know how to befriend you and employed this trick. I was about to surprise you by revealing my ruse but my sister spoiled it. Please excuse me but it was difficult to pretend to be blind. It is good that you have come here. My parents would be happy to meet you."

“I suspected this right from the beginning as I found from my side glances your  staring at me always,” she said with a giggle.

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Pushpa's wish (655 words)

This is a delectable short story written more than a decade back. I am sure of your chuckle at the end.!

Pushpa, whenever she found time in the evenings, went to the lake nearby. Sitting alone and watching the darkening sky as the sun went down made her forget her gloomy life. With mom sick, dad slogging at a textile shop for long hours for a measly salary and four siblings, she bore the brunt of the work. She could not join college. Although smart and attractive, she was not fortunate in circumstances but had a positive outlook hoping for a miracle.

She saw a little yonder in the sky, a dark bluish smoke-like thing emerging from the lake that soon morphed into a tall figure that was broad in the middle but tapered into a narrow line. She got up hurriedly to leave the place but it stood before her in a trice. In a booming voice, it said, "Don't be afraid. I will not harm you. I am a genie and remained bottled up for many years by an evil man. I got released a little while ago when the bottle was pushed against a rock by a fish and the bottle broke. I am in a happy frame of mind and wish to grant you a boon being the first person I saw on my release. You can choose one of the three wishes that can neither be modified nor taken back. I will appear after two years to see how you are faring Are you ready to listen?"

Pushpa gathered courage and said “Shoot out. I am in a hurry."

"The first one is you can become very rich but remain unmarried all through life. The second one is you will remain poor but get a very handsome and loving husband.
The third one is you will get rich and get a reasonably good husband also but you will live only for three more years. Think carefully and tell me what you wish."

It was a tough choice for Pushpa. She thought about her needs, her family’s needs and also about the future. It was difficult and took considerable time

“Be quick. I give you two minutes to decide,” said the genie

“Okay, I have decided to go for the first wish”

“Oh my god, do you wish to remain a spinster all through life for the sake of money? It is, however, your choice. I grant it now. Will see you again after two years. Good luck.”

Within a short time, she became a crorepati in KBC and made wise investments in the textile business that turned highly profitable. She bought a new house, educated her siblings, and got her mom treated well. Everyone was happy and life was very​​ comfortable with servants to assist. Pushpa was also cheerful and had put on some flab in her happiness. It was all hunky dory for them.

Exactly two years later when Pushpa was sitting in her usual spot at the lakeside, the genie appeared as promised. “How are you, my young friend? I can see signs of prosperity and you also look healthier. But I am sorry that you remain unmarried at an age when you should be enjoying life.”

“When were you, my benefactor, bottled up by the evil man?” she asked.

“Ah, it must be more than sixty years though I don’t remember exactly.”

“Never mind. Much water has flown under the bridge since then. The world has changed a lot. What if I am a spinster? Haven’t you heard of ‘live-in’ relationships? I have a handsome guy living with me and we are not married in deference to your condition. I am very happy and indebted to you for life” she said and laughed merrily.

“I never knew about such an option as otherwise I would have worded the wish differently. Where is the world headed, I wonder? Continue to be happy and get married to him, if you wish, my friend,” the genie exclaimed, as it vanished.



Thursday, June 6, 2024

What a strong fate line can do for you? (969 words)

 Anand was in despair as all his efforts to secure a job had failed. He was tired of attending interviews only to be rejected. He was just a graduate with no special skills He stood no chance in a job market where skilled persons were ready to work for smaller remuneration. He knew his dad held no high opinion of him and thought his craze for singing film songs would lead him nowhere.

True he had an arresting voice and could enthral his friends by singing very much like the famous playback singers. His mom would often tell that if she closed her eyes she hardly could distinguish his singing from the famous names. He was already 26 and his dad would retire soon. There was a compelling need to augment the family income

As he was sitting in the park lost in his sullen thoughts, one man with ash marks and a big Kumkum on his forehead sat by his side. After some silence, he made a gratuitous remark, “I can read faces and hands. I can see you are worried about your future. Let me read your palm and tell you what is in store for you.”

When Anand ran his hand over his empty pocket, the man said,” You don’t have to pay anything.” After reading his hand intently, the man did not utter one word. When he rose to leave, Anand asked him to tell unhesitatingly whatever he had found out.

The man said,” I am sorry. The Money line on your palm is hazy and broken in many places. That would signify a life of want and misery. Still, I see other signs of prosperity. I am confused as I have rarely come across a palm like yours.”

That night he had a weird and crazy thought like, “Why not make a strong well-etched fortune line and change the course of my life” He took a pen knife and drew a line on his palm with the sharp knife. In the sudden pain, he fell cutting his artery in the wrist as well. There were none in the house then. Luckily, he was taken by neighbours in the nick of time to hospital. He had to remain in the hospital for some days. It was here destiny played its queer part. He fell in love with the attractive nurse Sindhu attending to him. She too took a fancy for him. She contrived to spend longer hours with him.

When they knew each other's interests and passions, she was surprised about his craze for singing. Being a music buff herself, she made him sing for her. She was mesmerised by the ease with which he sang, his rich voice with its high reach, and his incredible ability to imitate the legends in the field. She became more attracted to him and their love grew in intensity. But she knew he was jobless and she was willing to wait. He was discharged from the hospital. Unlike the hazy one earlier, the wound had healed with a clear fate line on his palm. They both laughed over the funny incident that brought them together.

Back at home, he started with renewed vigour to find a job. After a month or so, he received a call one day on his mobile. The voice said “Is it Anand? I am an assistant to the famous music director Tune King. He wants you to come for an audition at his studio tomorrow. Are you coming?”

Anand asked in a perplexed tone” I am Anand alright. But I am not in the cine field or well known. Are you sure you have the right number?”

“The Music director gave the number he possibly got from someone who had recommended you. Please come without fail. This could be a big breakthrough, who knows?” he said

He had to wait for a long time. There were many going in and coming out. Finally, just before 6 pm, he was called in. The director looked like a hefty man and was quite tall with an imposing figure. Clad in spotless white, he said,” So you are Anand. I heard from someone you sing well and can imitate the big stars in the field. But I want you to sing any song you like in your style. If I like your voice and am satisfied that you will suit me, I will make you sing with accompaniments. Come on, be free from fear.”

Wondering who could have mentioned about him, Anand sang one catchy and popular song with effortless ease. Taken aback, the director asked him to sing one more. That done, he kept asking him to sing again and again. He finally stood up and came near him to hug him saying “I have found a rare gem. You have great talent. You will turn the music world upside down. From now on, you are working for me and no one else. We will draft an agreement tomorrow” He drew from his pocket a bundle of notes and gave him saying ‘Keep this. This is a small token of my appreciation”

When Anand lingered, the director asked him “Yes, what do you want?”

“May I know who recommended my name to you for no one in the field knows me. This is a private hobby of mine”

Hearing this, he laughed aloud and said “That pretty nurse girl in the hospital spoke for you. I was there for some treatment. She took a promise from me that I would hear you once. Are you in love with her or what?”

Six months later when Anand was in his home cutting apples with a knife, his wife Sindhu snatched the knife from him and said smilingly” I would not trust you anymore with a knife.”